Thursday, March 13, 2014

Our Korean John Chrysostom

There have always been those within the Church  who have criticized the organizational structures of Catholicism. The desk columnist of the Catholic Times does not discuss the rightness or wrongness of the criticisms, but feels it would be wrong  to underestimate or condemn them, especially when they are expressed with passion and love.

One of the most extreme was the the declaration to dissolve the Catholic Church of Korea that appeared, at  the beginning of the new millennium, on the bulletin board of the Bishops' website. On ten different occasions a netizen (a person who actively uses the Internet) declared his reasons for putting an end to Catholicism here in Korea. It was not the Catholic Church and its teachings, he said, that was the problem but the way we in Korea have  accepted Catholicism. He calls himself John Chrysostom (taking the name of an early Church Father known for denouncing the abuse of authority by Church leaders). It was a very sensational approach to a troubling issue.

He felt that we have taken the name 'Catholic' and have packaged it to suit ourselves, disfiguring what should be sacred. He had strong words for what he called the arrogance, self-righteousness  and clericalism of the Church; its accumulation of money and playing by the rules of capitalism,  and so on. Because of these faults, he is asking the laity to join him in achieving his goal.

The columnist says he will only treat two of the problems that he sees in the way the writer approached the subject, when he describes Catholicism as a structure that needed to be dismantled.  Of course it is not only a structure, but being an institution is of the very essence of Catholicism. Too often, even Catholics do not understand that to belong to Jesus, means also to belong to His Body, the Church.  The other faults he finds within Catholicism cannot be passed over carelessly, he says, for there are reasons for the netizen's criticisms.  But from the very beginning of his argument, the columnist sees it as overblown, and for a Catholic impossible to accept. However, there are problems he mentions that Catholics should reflect on deeply.

There are members of the laity, the columnist points out, who have a sense of mission and work hard at being disciples of Jesus. However, they  feel limited and often frustrated with what they see. But it is clear, he says, that there are those who find it difficult to live the life of a disciple, and who have a thirst for something more than what they are receiving, and thus live with a great deal of dissatisfaction. Many either leave the Church or compromise, guided by self-interest in the way they follow Jesus.

Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation (#275) The Joy of the Gospel,  tells the workers in the Church, while showing compassion for the difficulties they often face: "This attitude makes it impossible to be a missionary. It is only a malicious excuse for remaining caught up in comfort, laziness, vague dissatisfaction and empty selfishness. It is a self-destructive attitude, for 'man cannot live without hope: life would become meaningless and unbearable.'

"The joy of the Gospel is such that it cannot be taken away from us by anyone or anything. The evils of our world–and those of the Church–must not be excuses for diminishing our commitment and our fervor. Let us look upon them as challenges which can help us to grow.

"In the second chapter, we reflected on that lack of deep spirituality which turns into pessimism, fatalism, and mistrust. Some people do not commit themselves to mission because they think  nothing will change and that it is useless to make the effort. They think: Why should I deny myself my comforts and pleasures if I won’t see any significant result." 

Words like these will help us to see a change in the way we relate with the Church, the columnist predicts, adding that it will be the 'Francis Effect'  on the Church.

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